[ RadSafe ] Am-241 and INCINERATORS

Geo>K0FF GEOelectronics at netscape.com
Wed Dec 5 08:32:28 CST 2007


The proper method of disposal of a Smoke Detector is in the trash bin. Presumably the waste is buried in a 
landfill, and the Am-241 contained therein decays naturally according to its half life of  432 years over geologic time frames. 

Some cities choose incineration for waste control, especially in Europe. The energy released is often used to generate electricity.

Does anyone have specific information concerning the destruction of Smoke Detectors / Am-241 in incinerators, particularly 
the path the material takes, and the ultimate disposition of the Am-241? My particular interest is: does the material go into 
the fly ash, or into the bottom ash? Since other heavy metals go into the fly ash, one would assume that the Am-241 does as well.
Today, much of the fly ash is recovered and is subsequently used in various construction and industrial projects as an engineering material. 
In some countries it is simply dumped into landfills.

The same question pertains to Radium Watch Hands, etc. but in modern times, I'm thinking the bulk of solid radioactive consumer waste 
would be from Smoke Detectors. 

Does anyone have personal knowledge of smoke stack radiation detection being carried out today? 

Small sources such as these don't amount to much unless the huge numbers of them being discarded each year are taken into account. 
We who use Lead (Pb) for shielding know how important it is to use ancient or at least PRE WW2 lead in shielding because of the 
contamination contained within modern lead. 

We are aware that coal-fired power plants also emit radiation (NORM) from the naturally occurring Radium et al. contained in the coal.

It might be interesting to analyze large concentrations of fly ash for their various radioactive constituents.

George Dowell
New London Nucleonics Lab

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